In Memory of Mr. E.A. (Bill) Palmer

It is with deep sadness that the Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) inform you that Mr E.A. (Bill) Palmer, the first Scientific Secretary/Executive Officer of AINSE, recently passed away in September.

Bill made an enormous contribution to Nuclear Science and Engineering as the leader of AINSE from 1959 – 1988.

In 1953, the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Atomic Energy Act (1953). The Act established the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC), which became the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) in 1987. The inaugural meeting of AINSE was held on 4 December 1958 at the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) headquarters, and a year later it was agreed to appoint a scientific secretary. Bill accepted this role in November 1959. In January 1968 Bill was promoted to Executive Officer and continued in this role until retirement in 1988.

AINSE’s inaugural membership was formed with nine university members and the AAEC. Bill, along with his university and AAEC colleagues, worked tirelessly to join each university in Australia as they opened, while also exploring new research opportunities, managing government relations, and dealing with significant budgetary challenges.

Bill was recognised for these contributions in the 1982 Queen’s Birthday Honours list when he received the Office of the Order of the British Empire for his service to Science and Technology. Bill, always a modest man, claimed that his OBE was a way of recognising the contribution to Australian society that AINSE had accomplished.

In 1994 Bill was recognised as an Honorary Fellow of AINSE for his long-standing service to the Institute, which continued well past his retirement. In recent years he continued to raise awareness of nuclear science and engineering in Australia, delivering a presentation to a large audience on the subject in 2015 and playing an important role at AINSE’s 60th Birthday event in 2018 as a keynote presenter.

Bill Palmer (second from left) cutting the 60th Anniversary AINSE Birthday Cake in December 2018.

Bill continued to stay engaged with AINSE and more recently was a regular attendee at the AINSE General Meetings, where he contributed valuable advice as an ‘Individual Member’ of AINSE. He was still providing innovative ideas for the most recent Annual General Meeting held in May 2022. Even though he could not attend in person, he undertook a thorough review of the agenda prior to the meeting and provided sage advice to the Managing Director. He was supportive of the AINSE staff during the pandemic and was able to share some hard-earned wisdom gained through comparable challenges he had faced under different circumstances. He re-told a story where the airlines had cancelled flights across the country, leaving visiting AINSE researchers stranded at Lucas Heights. At that time the AINSE team had to scramble to rent cars to drive everyone home across the country. In many ways a different situation compared to state lockdowns halting travel during the pandemic, but equally disruptive to the research community!

Bill was a key person who implemented the foundations of AINSE’s ongoing success for over 60 years. His diplomacy, extensive career experience, engineering expertise, and pleasant nature made him an outstanding leader for AINSE in its first three decades. He will be missed, but always remembered – not only for his vast contributions to nuclear science and engineering, but also for his kind, considerate nature.

Bill Palmer (front row, 5th from left) alongside AINSE representatives at the 2019 AINSE Annual General Meeting.